West End tenants continue fight against landlord

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Renters claim numerous violations of tenancy act since new owners took over in August
By Kevin Griffin, Vancouver Sun December 15, 2014
West End tenants continue fight against landlord

In September, Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, centre, stood in protest with tenants who had received eviction notices on their doors at 1168 Pendrell St. in Vancouver.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , PNG

Embattled tenants at a West End apartment building have won five consecutive victories at the Residential Tenancy Branch since the summer in their continuing dispute with the landlord, Plan A Real Estate Services.

Now the tenants of Hofmann Manor at 1168 Pendrell are hoping for another, bigger win at the RTB to make it six in a row.

In a hearing Monday, they asked the RTB to penalize the landlord for what they claim are numerous violations of their tenancy and/or the Residential Tenancy Act since ownership of the 23-suite apartment building changed to Plan A in August, said Absalon Figueroa, a tenant in the building.

“The good news is that we’ve been winning our cases — all of the eviction cases,” Figueroa said at a news conference in the office of Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End, shortly before the hearing took place. “Not one eviction has stood up.”

A total of 17 tenants jointly claimed in the RTB hearing that Plan A has “exhibited a pattern of unreasonable and harassing behaviour.” A decision by the tenancy branch is not expected until after Christmas.

But Anoop Majithia, founder and president of Plan A, said that “those are very strong words — and I think they’re completely untrue.

“I think the tenants actions are motived by fear by losing their tenancy. I think the fears are unfounded. We have no plans to evict any of the existing tenants.”

Majithia said by phone that Plan A has taken a “very passive approach” and tried to be conciliatory since the initial flurry of eviction notices and activity in August and September.

Majithia said he has no plans to turn Hofmann Manor into short-term rentals similar to an Airbnb, a website that allows travellers to book accommodation in homes and apartments and other locations outside of traditional hotels and inns. He said three tenants whose lease expires at the end of December have been offered to renew at the same monthly rent.

“We’re not actively looking forward to turning over tenants,” he said.

Figueroa, speaking on behalf of the tenants at the news conference, said even though tenants have won all their disputes, there is nothing in the Residential Tenancy Act stopping Plan A from continuing to issue more eviction notices.

Since August when Plan A took over the building and started issuing eviction notices, tenants in six or seven suites have moved out. Eight tenants had to take time off work to be part of the phone hearing Monday morning with the RTB at Chandra Herbert’s office.

Figueroa has lived in Hofmann Manor for four years. He pays $1,125 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Chandra Herbert said administrative penalties in the Residential Tenancy Act are meant to be used against bad landlords that knowingly break the rules.

“From what I can see, this landlord qualifies,” he said.

“This is a waste of their time, tax money, all to defend the right of good tenants to live in their homes.”

Tenants say Plan A has violated 10 sections of the Residential Tenancy Act and/or their tenancy agreements. They include barring bikes from the laundry room/bike locker due to insurance concerns, refusing to accept post-dated cheques for rent, and installing an audio and video surveillance system through the common areas of the building.